|‘Shaba’ #3 is the third of four portrait studies of Aboriginal male beauty and contemporary identity, from my series ‘Nimgololo’ which I am currently making around Larrakia country – Darwin. This is my first Aboriginal project flowing on from my ‘Nice Coloured Boys’ series, commenced in 1993 in India involving the making of around 500 colour male portraits over several trips. Up until the ‘Shaba’ series my art practice took place mostly outside Australia in India also Nepal and Bangladesh. My photographs have posed a problem for some people with my work recently being censored as one example, but this doesn’t detract from my artistic goals.
In 2005 I started to make portraits of Aboriginal men in Darwin. What I am photographing in India I wanted to do in Darwin. My aim is to re-represent contemporary Indigenous male identity in Darwin through the beauty and diversity of Aboriginal and Islander males who live here. The series is also in homage to the subjects of the portraits - local guys as in this case, my nephew Shannon whose family nickname is Shaba. I took this photograph recently, the day after his 18th birthday in the Darwin Botanic Gardens. I photographed him holding a bilata (woomera), in reference to colonial male portraits showing Larrakia men rarely without their own. I first photographed him when he was 16 and he is as at-ease with the camera now as he was back then. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people look like so many other nationalities yet this diversity is not yet widely understood let alone celebrated. I hope to do just that in the ‘Nimgololo’ series.